The Monday Mess – The 2012 TV roundup – 10 Dec 2012

The Monday mess, aka me, is looking  forward to the return of “Justified” in January. Although I like my deep, layered drama shows, I also love this one. It has a great mix of fun, good dialogue, good characters, story, and guns. I suppose that implies the show isn’t multi layered, thoughtful, like The Sopranos was, or The Wire was. Well it isn’t, but it never tries to be. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It is pretty much an Elmore Leonard novel correctly brought to screen (the character is Elmore’s from his short story “Fire in the hole” which Elmore used again inspired from the series, in the recent novel “Raylan”). It is great. Hmm. It inspired me to give some thoughts on this years TV drama. Run away if you wish, but here they are, with added highly useful / useless, three word summary:

One reason for January to hurry up...

One reason for January to hurry up…

  • Justified – Maybe not as rounded a story as Season 2, but still great. Criminally ignored at the awards shows in favour of supposedly more serious fare. Loved the show. If you recall the line “They are saying I disarmed him”, you’ll know what I mean. – 3 word summary: Crisp dialogue king.
  • Breaking Bad – Short 8 episodes, but sweet as you like. The drama seemed a little bit rushed in some ways due to the reduced episodes, but there were plenty of good set pieces, wow moments, I cannot believe they did that moments, and the usual great acting. It opened with a clever scene from a year further down the line, which we have still to get to, and ended with a good cliffhanger. Cannot wait for the final 8 episodes next year. If you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – Walter, Holy sh*t.
  • Mad Men – Back after a break and still on form. Slight dynamic change, some interesting character endings and repositioning of characters. Roger’s acid trip perhaps the highlight. Clever and stylish still. Again,  if you have netflix, and haven’t seen this show, catch up now. – stylish, cool, thoughtful.
  • Game of Thrones – Beautiful to look at and well acted. Some things trimmed from the second book, some moments appearing in different form from the early part of the third. Looking forward to how they deal with the rest of the third book. Best episode this time was the episode focused around the assault on Kings landing, was the best.  – Tyrion, the tall.
  • The Killing – Finished off the story. Improved on the first season in some ways, and made mistakes in other ways, like the “mad for a day” moment the two main characters had in separate episodes. One also took a bad beating but seemed ok enough a day or two later. The show was cancelled after this. That I wasn’t disappointed, says it all. Glad its over.
  • The Walking dead – perhaps on it’s strongest run so far. Good stories, good zombie kills / special effects, more tension between human vs human characters which drives the story much better.  Nice ending to the mid season finale. Looking forward to this one coming back. – No, Andrea, no.
  • Boardwalk Empire – Despite that they killed off my favourite character at the end of the previous season, I think I enjoyed this season the most. This show for me has always been very stylish, but maybe lacks the tension and tight dramatic drive of other shows. It is still decent though, employs great actors, for example Stephen Root who did a great job this season, and I loved the way they wrapped this season up. Great to see Richard involved. Interested to see where they go next year, as I was a little apprehensive to begin with this year. – Go Richard, go.
  • Hell on Wheels – Beautifully shot, never really had the dramatic tension that it ought to have. Quite a bit of it is well, a bit obvious. I tend to know where this is going most of the time. I will still watch it if it returns for another season. Needs more tension.
  • Treme – Have this season on the recorder but not watched it yet. Nothing to add. – Better watch it.
  • Homeland – Half of the season watched which was excellant. They changed track, but really this had to happen in the story. I have heard reports that the second half of the season is a bit weaker, but I guess I shall see. – Better catch up.

My Fave show of the year through nonet:

Oh sunday evening drama time

what a great selection to see

but when I look back and think

which of these is my fave

gut feeling selects

the dialogue cool

Justified.

Its back

soon 🙂

Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: specious.

Advertisements

The Monday Mess – My wife the nice character killer – 22 Oct 2012

YupMonday again and what better time than now to discuss a problem. Why monday instead of um, Friday? Because I can, and this is the Monday mess. And this is a mess. A mess of unusual proportions.

See I love my wife, as you might hope and expect, but pssst, quiet now, she has a little problem. See it all started a few months ago…

You better watch out.
(Image Source: Microsoft Clip art)

One sunday evening we settled down to a sunday drama show, in this instance the brilliant “Breaking Bad”. There was a particular character that she was very fond of. I don’t want to name the character, for possible spoiler reasons for anyone who hasn’t seen the latest season yet (see I’m good that way). But let us just say now, that said character did not make it to the end of the season. Was my wife impressed, no. Does a character you like end up being killed off? From time to time yes (for me, Michael Pitt’s character in last seasons “Boardwalk Empire”, which annoys me so much I break my spoiler rule), so no big deal. Most of the time.

Fast forward to um, perhaps a week or so later (but it might have been the next day), and watching “Hell on wheels”. There is another character my wife is growing fond of. The show is set in the “Old West”, surely not much can happen there right? So what happens? The character takes gets captured for crimes committed and has to take a bullet as punishment. And that is the end of that. Hmm, that seems a bit of a coincidence. Oh well never mind.  There is another character in the same show she can like instead. A loveable Irish chap (well he was a racist thug in the first season, but season 2 seems to have conveniently forgotten that, so now he is likeable). And what happens to him? No sooner than my wife starts liking him, then he kills himself. That’s right, he did it to himself. I don’t think he knew my wife liked him, I think in the show it was for a separate reason. At least I think.

Oh and if you watch the recent “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” don’t get too attached to that Gorilla. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Well never mind “The Walking dead” is back. My wife likes Hershel. Nothing can happen to him in a show like this right? Well something did. Actually at the time of writing, he is still alive. But for how much longer? Now I’m worried for the characters I like in other shows. What if my wife starts liking them too?

“Nonet” or not Nonet? That is the question. And below, the answer:

Last weeks one was interesting, so here is another attempt. Nonet = Nine lines, first line with nine syllables and dropping a syllable each line until the final ninth line has only one. The prompt, see above:

Once upon a time, far far away

a nice character came to be

bringing much joy to many

till the reaper appeared

my wife’s smiling face

Don’t get attached

that one will

end up

dead

We’ve come to an agreement now. My wife will be shut in the closet whilst a show I like is on. And no putting your ear to the door either.

Good job my wife has a sense of humour. Love you Mrs Brainsplats 🙂

Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: aberrant .

TV Vegetable – 21 March 2012 – adventures from the edge of the couch

 Welcome to this weeks tv vegetable, my (sometime) weekly round up of some consumed tv. Don’t worry, it’s not too in depth – blah, blah.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Fabulous episode this week. The farm got overrun with a zombie hoard. The group briefly got split up. It was madness as to who might survive, and who might not. In the end two anonymous people died, none of the main cast did. I’m not even sure who they were, but one might have been the wife of Otis, and the other, just some bloke from the farm. I suppose we did get Shane dying last week and the old fella the week before. – Andrea did get separated from the group. I didn’t think she was going to die as they focussed too much on her escaping, then going on the run. As she was about to be killed I was expecting someone to save her, which happened. I wasn’t expecting the person saving her to look as “it did”:

I’m aware this character is in the graphic novels, but I’m going to try to avoid spoilers to find out who this is and where from. Really, I thought this was a great episode, which moved things along to a new context and setting for the next season. The farmhouse is gone, they are without food, and most of their useful items. The zombie fighting was well done, and the makeup was up to it’s usual high standard. If I had some concerns it would be with how accurate everyone suddenly seems to be with their shooting, and where is all of the ammo coming from? Hershel seemed to have a lot of ammo in that shotgun until they needed him to reload, putting him in danger, only for Rick to save him. I shall look forward to next season.

– My wife says: Why is everyone so annoyed with Rick?

– I say: Why didn’t Rick just say, “Shane tried to shoot me in the back so I had to defend myself”.

Luck (HBO)

Due to a third death of a horse and ongoing safety issues for other horses Luck has now been cancelled mid way through filming the second episode of season 2. The production crew are people who like horses, they are not prepared to continue filming whilst there is a risk of more injuries. Whilst this is disappointing in terms of the show, I can only respect that choice. Will it be permanently cancelled? There is talk that they may be finding a way to make the track safer. I guess we shall see.

Meanwhile in this weeks episode, more focus was away from the track than on it. Ace managed to gain a small upper hand against Michael in his not quite clear plan regarding the race track, gambling and something or other about making money. Personally I find Dustin Hoffman a little hard to take as a gangster. The guy is 5 foot 5 inches tall and looks even shorter. He ought to have been given an ashtray like scene, himself. I’m not sure about this quiet menace. Although on the other hand the scenes where he spoke to Michael were great so maybe I am sure about his quiet menace.

Jo nearly or might have lost the pregnancy which is a bit unpleasant to anyone who has had a child and the ultrasounds that went with the pregnancy. It was kind of interesting watching Escalante stepping up. Part of this might have come from the conversation with Ace, where we learned they had crossed paths before. There was a shift in positions for Rosie getting a ride on the escalante horse owned by the gang of four. Not the derby race itself, but the derby day. There might have been some clever politics going on there. I couldn’t quite follow that. It sets up the big derby race between Ace’s and Nick Nolte’s horse. I thought Nick Nolte was going to burst a blood vessel and collapse on set with his wheezy outbursts. I shall presume that to be acting. One episode to go. It’s good, I will miss it if it doesn’t come back.

– My wife says: I wasn’t paying attention

– I say: I liked the way escalante described ET as the boy with the monkey on the bike flying past the moon.

Justified (FX)

I love this show. I love how it’s a modern western, I love how it keeps the dialogue in the style of Elmore Leonard. I recently described it a a guilty pleasure without the guilt. There are not many episodes of this season left, only three.

 

This episode was right up there with the best of the season. Jim Beaver, at the beginning of the show, demonstrated the thing this show does better than any other, which is to make “the confrontation” seem original and enjoyable every time. It might be clever dialogue, or clever positioning of characters, or a little twist, but there is always something. In the early confrontation, it was diffused with some clever talk from Jim about how he was dying of cancer so he was prepared to go, which was of course nonsense, but clever. In the final confrontation between Raylan and Quarles, started with a fantastic “Why wait?”, it was stopped by Lindsey (the bar owner) and likely saved for one of the final three episodes. A confrontation being stopped by the bar owner is nothing new, but that set up the following scene between Raylan and Lindsey (“Sure it’s not one of the hazards of being you?” ). I cannot help feel that when Raylan and Quarles finally face off, the up the sleeve gun will be involved, and the one or two questions he has had about it jamming, might cast an influence.

We also got to know more about Quarles and his forced rent boy beginnings, in the great scene in the winnebago. Then got a brief but disturbing end scene with the boy he captured. It’s amusing how Wynn Duffy was a bit of a crook but now looks like the sane one compared to Quarles. Plus there was great Boyd and the election scenes (Jim Beaver there again, this time with varying levels of comfort in the bar), Raylan’s courtroom speech, Dickie being freed, and more manoeuvring from Limehouse. Oh and more amusing dialogue from Raylan’s boss – “Did that go the way you rehearsed it?”

– My wife says: I didn’t like this show at the beginning, but I like it now.

– I say: It’s justified and erm, therefore it’s justified – I love this show.

The Ultimate Fighter (FX)

I mentioned last time that this is my first experience of this show. It appears to be a mix of reality in house / training type stuff, leading to this weeks “live” fight. This week, one guy was fighting another seemingly better fighter, only for the latter to leap in looking for a takedown just as the other was beginning to kick him. This resulted in a knee to the head and a clean knock out win for the underdog. Sorry I cannot be bothered to look up the fighters names for you. Either you watch it and you know who I mean, of you don’t watch it anyway.

The rest of the time was mostly taken up with in house stuff. One of the fighters had lost his father over the weekend so the show generously allowed him the privacy of having a camera shoved in his face, presumably so he could cry in peace – with us watching. Tough it up man, this is the ultimate fighter. They did allow him to go to the funeral and come back again and continue. They know how to look after their fighters in the UFC.

Highlights – I got into the tension and emotion of the fight, and then, Bam – knockout!

Lowlights – The one I wanted to win got knocked out. Also, of course if your dad has just passed away, you are going to be emotional. You don’t really need me watching you going through it.

– My wife says: I think I want team cruz to win, he seems a nicer person

– I say: But Faber is the california kid, support your local team woman!

tv dinner (the rest)

Strange addictions – I don’t know if this was a new one or a re-run but we saw an episode of this on sunday with two fabulous weirdos. The first spent her time sniffing gasoline. But wait, as if that isn’t enough, she also drinks it. Yes, she sips on gasoline. Despite the fact that it burns her throat, has enlarged her liver, and is destroying her nervous system to the extent that she couldn’t feel needles being stuck in her arm.

The other carried round a little dolls head that she liked to sniff and rub against. It had a broken eye which made it seem even more disturbing. Look here she is:

I don’t know where they find these people.

– My Wife says: This is gross. What channel is it on? I’m turning it on in the bedroom as well.

– I say: That baby head looks like it’s made out of chocolate. Mmm, chocolate….

Hoarders – Was not on this week so disappointingly, again there was no toilet turd mountain, this week. I should have mentioned last time that this was human turds, in a toilet. The water in the house had been long since turned off. A total mix of cringing laughter and horror.

– My Wife says: WHY ISN’T HOARDERS ON????

– I say: Oops (little smile).

Til next time, enjoy!

Lexicon word of the day: Provost.

The 10 best drama shows of the last decade – tv vegetable

No really this is, the ten best drama shows of the last decade. If you’re looking for something to watch, check the list to see if there is anything you haven’t seen.

Or in other news I wanted something more lighthearted to write about today. Something I thought might add a little information about my interests in terms of tv, relevant to the tv vegetable posts. So in an additional feature for my new tv vegetable section, here is the list. The rules for this one are:

  • The show must have had episodes in the last decade which unfortunately excludes British classics like “The Singing detective”, or “Boys from the Blackstuff”, and would include “The X-files” although that is not in the list.
  • The show must have aired more than the first season. This therefore excludes good one offs that got cancelled after a season such as Terriers (this is on Netflix streaming so check it out if you missed it), and the recently cancelled HBO show Luck (cancelled due to a third horse death during filming, not due to ratings or creative disputes, it is even possible this show might yet be back).
So the list will be as follows and to add a little  more to it, they are in order, starting with what I consider to be the best:
  1. The Sopranos – ” Woke up this morning… got myself a gun”. Really for me this was a super close call between this and the number two selection. But as modern dramas go, the Sopranos led the way. With no commercials on HBO, the sopranos was a film on tv, but with the increased running time, came much deeper characters. It went against being episodic in nature with each episode being essentially an instalment of the whole season, rather than an episode per se. There were individual stories in episodes, yes, but never self contained. You needed to see a whole season to get it. Many shows since have followed this model, but The Sopranos made it popular. – Then there are the characters, Tony Soprano himself, a beast of a man, but as we followed his viewpoint, someone we could sympathise with whatever bad deeds he did. Paulie Walnuts, Sal, Uncle Junior, Carmella, Ralph Cifaretto, the list goes on. This also gave the “no-one is safe, anyone could die model” which shows like “A Game of thrones” have today. The Sopranos was full of classic moments and scenes. I would list some but this blog piece might never end.
  2. The Wire – Almost the top spot. Easily the best show giving viewpoints from multiple characters, easily the best cop show, giving equal time and billing to the villains. Except there are few villains as such, only characters forced into bad deeds as a victim of the circumstances they were brought up and live in. Even the cops have their bad moments, the characters are all shades of grey. Across the five seasons (each one with a different focus area), perhaps no show examined the American experience (or cultural pie) as well as this one. If you have never seen this show and don’t mind having a slightly slow moving, but highly detailed show, you really should check this out. Be introduced to Mcnulty, Bunk, Stringer Bell, Omar (I think I read he was President Obama’s favourite character in a drama), Prez and a whole load more. A true modern classic.
  3. Mad Men – The first entry that is still going, and about to restart in just over a week (yay!). Set in sixties Madison avenue advertising men, this show examines the America of then, through the eyes of now. It tears down the misty eyed view of that time, showing it to be just as awkward if not more so, as now. This show has a lead character in Don Draper, a drinker and womaniser, but very clever ad man. He has difficulties and troubles, successes and muck ups. We get to see it all in it’s fabulous vintage glory.
  4. Justified – Currently broadcasting the third season. Perhaps the only onscreen place to capture Elmore Leonard’s characters and dialogue like they sound on the page. It stars Tim Olyphant as US Marshall Raylan Givens, who seems destined to be stuck in rural Kentucky. He’s the “Hillbilly whisperer” as his colleagues would have it. It’s a little like a modern day Clint Eastwood western. It manages the balance between episodes that are self contained, yet still having an overall story arc, perhaps better than any other show. It’s worth watching for the dialogue alone. Prior to watching, I never thought this show would be that much. It’s now like a guilty pleasure without the guilt. It’s brilliant.
  5. Breaking bad – A show I only started watching on re-runs before they broadcast the forth season, so I’m a relative newcomer. A master of tension, and focussing on a few characters. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are superb as the two main characters Walter white, and Jesse Pinkman. If you want to know why being a meth producer or meth supplier can ruin you (and how?), watch this. N.B. The first season almost made me wander round greeting people with “Yo bitch”. You kind of have to see it.
  6. Deadwood – HBO’s western loosely based on real characters, and a real place (Deadwood Milch). This was sadly cancelled prior to a final season due to production costs, yet it still features in the list. It has more swearing than any show ever but don’t let that put you off. You will soon get used to it, and the rest of the dialogue more than makes up for it, almost Shakespearian in places. Fabulous looking show, great characters, little details, again, no character is safe. Tim Olyphant is in this one too, as Seth Bullock, but Ian Mcshane is arguably the best character, a real smart nasty piece of work called Al Swearengen. Many of this cast have since appeared in Justified.
  7. 6 Feet Under – A great show set around a funeral home and a family trying to rebuild itself after the death of the father. Each episode started with a death of some kind (often leading you to guess the how), which would be the body being worked on or connected to family members that would appear in the episode. It was however much more than this each family member experiencing a journey of their own for example Michael C Hall (who went on to further success in Dexter) as the gay brother trying to find his way, or Lauren Ambrose as the screwed up younger, artistic sister. The show even had a proper ending.
  8. The West Wing– Aaron Sorkin political dialogue in full flow. If you don’t like his style, you likely won’t like the show. However this was a clever political drama and foreshadowed Obama becoming president, in this case with Jimmy Smits. Maybe not the full depth of drama and empathy as some of the other shows listed here, but often fast paced and clever instead. Elizabeth Moss who was the presidents daughter had further success in Mad Men (as Peggy Olsen).
  9. Treme – Co created by David Simon who was one of the creators of The Wire. Another slow moving, but detailed show, this time set in New Orleans beginning three months after hurricane Katrina wiped most of it out. Well written, well acted. It has several actors who were in the wire and also best supporting actress oscar winner (2011), Melissa Leo.
  10. The Walking Dead – Zombies and some surviving humans. Based to some extent on the graphic novel. Good with tension, very good with make-up. It perhaps does not have enough depth on all the characters, but makes up for this with zombie visuals, and all that comes with it. About to hit the season two finale tomorrow.

So there is the list. There are some other shows around the edges. I’ve not seen Battlestar Galactica, but this is reckoned to be very good. It is on Netflix streaming so I may try it out soon. The Shield was excellent in beginning but misses out due to losing the plot a bit in it’s final two seasons. It did have an ending, but didn’t quite do it for me. Walton Goggins went from this to Justified (he was / is excellent in both)  Game of Thrones I absolutely love, but it is simply too new. If the second season is as good or better than the first, this might be replacing something above. Rome was good but after being cancelled for the end of the second season, had to rush a bit to finish things off. Boardwalk Empire, was a close call, excellent in places but a little lacking in tension for me. Plus they killed off my favourite character at the end of last season so that might take away something for me. Terminator: The Sarah Connor chronicles was much more fun than I thought it would be, and might have been a contender had it not gotten cancelled without an ending. Lost was top fun but had a crappy ending that didn’t explain enough for me and just didn’t do it justice for me either. That was a shame as the shortened final seasons had mostly been a joy.

And that is it. Disagree?

See you next time on tv vegetable.

Lexicon word of the day: venerate.

Monday Haiku and things I learnt last weekend

This weekend was a relative weekend of relaxing after finishing part three of an essay on the art of computer games being underrated. I finished Bill Bryson’s book “At Home“, which was good, if not slightly different to what I was expecting. Now I’ve moved onto Mark Oliver Everett’s book “Things the Grandchildren should know“, which is good thus far. He is the “bloke from the band Eels”, has had a somewhat depressing and stressful life in some aspects, that makes for an interesting story thus far. I have a bunch of his records which are somewhat neglected, so I expect this will give me a good and convenient excuse to listen to them.

Sunday afternoons have recently become a bit of an excuse for larking about on the PS3, so I had a go on Fifa 12 and UFC3 which was fun. Sunday evenings have some great TV. The Walking dead, was excellent last night and a good lead in to next weekends finale. Luck, I have recorded along with the superb Kenny Powers in Eastbound and Down. Life’s too short, was also amusing. His secretary is brilliant. As a show featuring Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant, saturday night’s An idiot abroad was much funnier and will be sadly missed. This last show was kind of like a studio version of The old Ricky Gervais radio show / podcast featuring Karl Pilkington. They are very funny if you’ve not heard them. They have been animated to some extent on HBO’s Ricky Gervais show, but to me work better listening to them as audio only.

Coming up in the next few weeks are the new series of Game of Thrones, Mad men, and The Killing too, sunday night TV will still be something to look forward to.

So mondays now feature two re-accuring features. The first is Haiku. Todays word prompts in the spirit of previous week which was about the weekend, this week are some things from this weekend. They are, The quick Ultimate fighter knockout (more below), a smoky oven (when my wife was trying to do some food which goes towards feeding the homeless), and my local “Henrys” has now become sprouts. The last of the three relevant because the smell of that place always reminded me of my earliest visits to this country long before deciding to, and moving here. So (in the spirit of UFC) “here we go”:

Now cold is my head

Struck a quick blow to my jaw

Fighting contract gone.

This one is an example of where Haiku is just not long enough to do justice. On the other hand, maybe I’ve not done a good job at it.

Burnt food stops the cook

Carve the nourishment of hunger

Feed our homeless folks

I’m not sure I’m quite with this today. I might revisit this one later. Oh well, onto the last one.

Henry’s became Sprouts

In the springtime of this Year

Pay only tribute

Ok so not too serious that one. Still, I convince myself it is all good practice, but if nothing else is fun.

Things I learned this weekend:

  • I still needed to learn how to defend myself in UFC 3 undisputed on the PS3. So I did some of the training and now I’m a bit better.
  • I’m not the only one who needs to learn to defend myself. In the Ultimate Fighter on friday, Erin Beach lost after Sam Sicilia popped him on the chin and knocked him out, in 8 seconds of the first round. All that training and he doesn’t get through 10 seconds!
  • LFC also lost again this weekend giving them three league defeats in a row, the first time this has happened since 2001.
  • ABC family channel is made up of more commercials than content.
  • Actually it is made of more commercials about it’s content, than actual content itself.
  • If we didn’t know before, The Walking Dead world is not a good, and certainly not a safe, place to live in.
  • Eels frontman Mark Everett seems like a nice bloke. I don’t think his book will take too long to read.

Lexicon word of the day: inosculate.